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Creative Community: Autumn Thompson ’24 reimagines PLU spaces—in the art gallery and the residence halls

Creative Community: Autumn Thompson ’24 reimagines PLU spaces—in the art gallery and the residence halls

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Autumn Thompson smiles at the camera. She is standing in photo studio in front of a white background. she is wearing stylish thick-rimmed glasses and denim overalls over a white sweater.

Image: Autumn Thomson ’24 is a double major in studio arts and business. (Photos by Emma Stafki ’24)

April 17, 2024
By Emily Holt, MFA '16
PLU Marketing & Communications Guest Writer

When Autumn Thompson ’24 selects an image or object for a piece for an exhibit or a class, be it sentimental or iconic, it’s not simply an assignment—it’s a step toward her vision of one day seeing her art in a museum. “I know that I’m going to manifest that for myself, because I know I’m worth that, and what I envision is worth that,” she says.

Using mixed media ranging from denim and drapery textile samples to braiding hair and acrylic paint, Thompson envisions her work as a space to reimagine what the world could look like “if we accepted who we are beyond expectations and structures within society.”

 One such space has been the University Gallery Annex, where Thompson has led the creation of an annual Black History Month exhibit for the past three years. This year, Thompson and PLU alumna Aniya Pickett ’21 paid tribute to Black innovators, scientists, and inventors who uplifted Black excellence and resilience and paved the way for greater representation and freedom.

 As a double major in studio arts and business with an emphasis in accounting, Thompson has been equally focused on making space: for artists, and for out-of-state students such as herself. Growing up in Texas with family hailing from Long Beach and New Orleans, Thompson knew she wanted to experience the different ways of communicating, learning, and artmaking that come with being in a different place. The daughter of two educators, Thompson took her first college tour as a seventh grader—and it happened to be at PLU. And though she was “super small with four pigtails, just walking the campus,” something about the place stuck with her.

Graduating high school in 2020 meant that Thompson’s first year at PLU wasn’t what she expected. But in her sophomore year, her RA—another person of color who used personal check-ins and informal get-togethers over tea to lead the community through their first in-person year—inspired Thompson to be an RA.

Leading the Community for Creative Expression in Hinderlie Hall, Thompson not only learned how to create boundaries and take up space, but also how to ask for help and seek out the support she needed to thrive. 

“It is a very vulnerable space,” Thompson says about her time as an RA. “It’s where you work, where you live, and you’re showing up every day as a student and as a resident yourself, while assisting others. It’s very empowering, the impacts you can make.”

Currently an RA for the Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equity Community, Thompson is as intentional about making space for residents—who she calls her neighbors—as she is about making space for her art.

Next year, Thompson will be pursuing a masters in business with a concentration in accounting through Louisiana State University. Her goal is to become a CPA, while maintaining her art business. For Thompson, the two go hand in hand—numbers, she says, are just another art form. And her art, she says, is about displaying how she navigates daily life.

Before Thompson graduates, she’ll have one more opportunity to share her work with the PLU community at the University Gallery in Ingram Hall on April 17, with an opening reception from 5 to 7 pm. Her capstone work, “Renaissance of Nostalgia”—presented along with her peers’ capstones in the wider exhibition, “Pastiche”—examines the musical and cultural influences in what she describes as “my journey through embodying what I have envisioned for myself.” 

For Thompson, each exhibit comes with the assurance that she’s in the right place.

“I know I am doing everything I’m meant to be doing,” she says. “Everything is meant to be the way that it is, and I am taking baby steps and am not afraid to voice myself.”